I am sure we are all thankful for the current, temporary cessation of violence in Israel and Gaza. The conflict has dominated the news and has drawn extensive public comment, with demonstrations and peace vigils in many parts of the world.
Recently, I was on holiday in England, but even then it was impossible to ignore the conflict. One afternoon, in the centre of Bristol, my attention was taken by the arrival of news cameras and policemen and the shouts of demonstrators.
Outside the city hall, a group of around 30 people had gathered, half of whom were holding Socialist Workers party posters and they were chanting.
They were led in this by a man with a loud-hailer, but one of their key messages, which they repeated again and again, was "Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea."
It is a chant which I have heard in Belfast from pro-Palestinian demonstrators and one I have seen on placards and it is something that always troubles me.
"From the river to the sea" refers to all the land between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.
It is a demand for a Palestinian state that covers that entire area – and that means the eradication of the state of Israel.
What hope is there of reaching an accommodation with those who make that demand?
Then, last week, my attention was particularly drawn to a full-page advertisement in The Irish News. Around 130 individuals and organisations, mainly from west Belfast, had signed up to it and were named in the advertisement, which was entitled "Slaughter in Palestine". That title intrigued me.
A number of Sinn Fein politicians were listed as signatories, including Jennifer McCann MLA, and so, too, were the Mairead Farrell Republican Youth Beal Feirste, the Jim O'Neill and Robert Allsopp Memorial Flute Band and Tar Isteach.
They were all expressing their concern about the "slaughter in Palestine", but it did seem rather bizarre.
Perhaps the Mairead Farrell Republican Youth have forgotten that Farrell was sentenced to 14 years in prison for explosives offences and was killed while on an IRA mission in Gibraltar. How much slaughter resulted from IRA bombs?
The Jim O'Neill and Robert Allsopp Memorial Flute Band was named after two young men from the New Lodge area of north Belfast, who were members of Na Fianna Eireann and whose deaths remind us of the tragedy of terrorism.
O'Neill was a 17-year-old joiner whose badly-burned body was found in a warehouse next to the home of Gerry Fitt MP. It was reported that he was attempting to burn down the home of the MP.
Robert Allsopp was just 15 when he died in 1975. He was found in the family home, shot in the head, in what was believed to be an accidental shooting.
Tar Isteach is a support group for republican ex-prisoners. It supports members of an organisation that was responsible for atrocities such as La Mon, Donegall Street, Bloody Friday and Enniskillen; an organisation that slaughtered men, women and children.
Another of the signatories, Jennifer McCann, joined the Provisional IRA aged 17 and was arrested at the age of 20.
She was convicted of shooting an RUC officer and sentenced to 20 years.
There is something totally bizarre about the stance of those who either perpetrate or celebrate IRA terrorism and yet feel able to sign up to a statement against "slaughter".
Of course, there is a long history of contact between the Provisional IRA and Palestinian terrorists, right back to the 1970s, when the Palestine Liberation Organisation provided terrorist training for the IRA.
Moreover, the IRA reciprocated when it invented and exported the car bomb, which has been used to such deadly effect in so many parts of the Middle East.
We must hope and pray for a lasting peace. But demands for the eradication of the state of Israel remain a major obstacle.
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